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'Cloud of doubt' lingers as McCann files 'Heart' sign financials

'What financials? What we received provided no financial detail on the Heart Barrie sign,' says mayor; But former councillor says this was his 'final statement'

Former city councillor Mike McCann’s “final statement” on the fundraising financials for the Heart/Love Barrie landmark sign falls short of being complete.

While McCann raised $200,000 for the sign, which sits in Heritage Park, he hasn’t specifically accounted for the remaining $170,000 — although some of that could be in-kind.

Figures provided to the city by McCann, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last October, list a fundraising total of $370,000. 

“Any leftover money will be spent on promoting Barrie and other charitable organizations, including saving the turtles and beavers,” McCann says in a statement dated March 1 and received by the city March 15.

“This will be my final statement to the City of Barrie, and the media, in regards to the financials of Love Barrie," he added in the statement. 

McCann also said in his statement that the former council, which sat from 2018 to 2022, directed him to manage and quarterback raising $200,000, which was to be spent on the Heart Barrie sign and a sponsor recognition footprint, a task he accomplished in the timeline requested by Barrie council.

Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall said he was unimpressed with McCann’s information.

“What financials?” he said in an email to BarrieToday. “What we received provided no financial detail on the Heart Barrie sign.

“We have been expecting this information as he publicly committed to it at the council meeting on June 6, 2022,” Nuttall added. “I will continue to work with council to determine what the best steps forward are.”

Coun. Clare Riepma said he wanted to see more detail.

“I certainly do encourage Mr. McCann to provide full disclosure of the financial details related to the sign and the donations that were made to environmental organizations as he had promised,” said the Ward 1 councillor. “Without that transparent information, there will forever be a cloud of doubt over the sign.”

McCann could not be reached for comment by BarrieToday.

But early last November, McCann said he would "disclose all financials” relating to the waterfront sign.

The city’s website shows information provided by McCann — 11 donations of $20,000 ($220,000), 13 donations of $10,000 ($130,000) and four donations of $5,000 ($20,000). That totals $370,000, although that figure is not on the city page.

Barrie’s former city council passed a motion that any money raised on top of the $200,000 for the Heart Barrie sign, where no donation receipts have been issued, be donated to 'save the beavers' and 'save the turtles' programs in the city.

McCann has said some of the donations are in-kind, for media and administration, although exactly what those donations were for, their value and who made them remains unknown.

The City of Barrie does not have a specific policy about fundraising by sitting councillors, but does have a council and committee member code of conduct. It has a donation policy that provides guidance related to the process and requirements of receiving cash and in-kind donations which are intended to support projects, programs or services offered by the city.

That policy covers cash donations given directly to the city and establishes the requirements for issuing donation receipts for income tax purposes.

The city received $200,000 that was required as part of council approval of the Heart Barrie sign and it was used to pay for the sign’s cost.

McCann has said the sign was intended to unite Barrie — to help businesses by driving residents and visitors to the downtown and have them celebrate the city by being photographed with the landmark sign.

The former city council added $15,000 to the city’s operations department budget, beginning this year, to cover costs of potential graffiti removal and winter maintenance on and around the sign.

The sign has been damaged structurally and repaired, and defaced by graffiti, twice since it went up July 1, 2022.

It is located in Heritage Park, directly on the entry axis to the downtown waterfront park, as pedestrians cross Simcoe Street from Meridian Place.